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Monday, May 5, 2014

Seven, Seven, Seven, Seven, and Seven

The most competitive, exciting and drama-filled first round of the NBA playoffs came to an end this past weekend. Five first round series concluded with a deciding Game 7, with a record three Game 7’s taking place on one day. The road team won the majority of the games played in the round. Only one series ended in a sweep with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat disposing of the Charlotte Bobcats in four games.  Six of the eight first round series required at least six games to decide the series. This all took place with the back drop of a potentially explosive controversy involving the racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. It was a first round that will be a tough act to follow.

There were unexpected curves in the road through the NBA Playoffs. 1

In the Eastern Conference, the top seeded Indiana Pacers and fifth seeded Washington Wizards will play for the right to advance to the Conference Finals against the winner of the series between the second seeded Heat and the sixth seeded Brooklyn Nets. In the Western Conference, the survivors of the four tightly contested first round series were the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trailblazers. The winner of the Spurs and Blazers will advance to play the winner of the Clippers-Thunder series. Like in the first round, expect the series in the Western Conference to be decided by the slimmest of margins.

LeBron and company are all rested up thanks to the fight that owner Michael Jordan's Bobcats did not put up. 2

In spite of the intense competition and high drama, the first round of the first round, we know, roughly, what we knew going into the playoffs. The Heat are the team to beat. The Bulls were an easy out without Derrick Rose or any other potent scoring threat. The Pacers may be the most dysfunctional and inconsistent top seeded team in the history of the NBA. The Brooklyn Nets are beatable, but have so much talent and experience that they are capable of beating anyone (including the Heat) in spite of the obstacles in their path. The narrative in the East is the same has it has been for months.

In the West, there are three teams that appear to be similarly capable of winning the West – the defending conference champion Spurs, the 2012 conference champion Thunder, and the Clippers, notwithstanding their ownership crisis. The Portland Trailblazers started this season as the hottest team in the NBA and their play against the Rockets in the first round resembles their play in November and December, when they appeared to be poised to run away with the Northwest Division. Expect those two series to be heated, physical, and long.

Liftoff of the 2014 NBA Playoffs is successful. If the first round is any indication, the return from orbit could be bumpy.  If so, the fans (and television networks) will be the big winners between now and mid-June.

The Nets advanced in a Game 7 at Toronto by the tips of Paul Pierce's fingers. It won't be the last time this season we see exciting conclusions like this one. 3
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